Before you go shopping for a freezer, decide whether a chest freezer or an upright freezer would better meet your needs. Then choose a model based on size, capacity, and energy efficiency.
Placing your model
If you plan to keep the freezer in a living area, consider how noisy it is. Most manufacturers say that their freezers can operate in a room where the temperature is from 32 degree to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, though they also indicate that spaces colder than 32 degrees F will not affect freezer operation. If you plan to house the freezer in an unheated area, such as a garage, adhere to the manufacturer's specified operating range.
Sizing your model
Freezers, whether chest or upright, come in four basic sizes: compact (5 cubic feet), small (6 to 9 cubic feet), medium (12 to 18 cubic feet), and large (more than 18 cubic feet). Your choice should depend on available space and family needs.
Weigh blackout performance
Most manufacturers say that their freezers can keep food adequately frozen for 24 hours with the power off, as long as the freezer remains unopened. But our tests simulating a prolonged power failure revealed significant differences. Some uprights allowed a relatively large increase in temperature after only nine hours.
Keeping food from spoiling
Most of the chests and self-defrosting uprights we tested delivered impressive temperature performance, maintaining 0 degrees F quite evenly throughout their interior. But all of the manual-defrost upright models had trouble keeping their door shelves as cool as the rest of the interior.
Any frozen food that has reached temperatures above 40 degrees for more than two hours should be discarded. For guidelines on frozen-food safety, read the freezing and food safety guidelines from the Department of Agriculture and our advice on freezing foods.
Don't expect your new freezer to be quite as energy efficient as its yellow EnergyGuide label implies. On average, our latest tested models used 17 percent more energy. That's because our tests are tougher-and, we believe, more like real-world conditions-than those specified by the U.S. Department of Energy. We fill the freezers to capacity, whereas they're only 75 percent full in the DOE test. And we test for energy use with the center of the freezer actually at 0 degrees, the optimum temperature for storing frozen food, while manufacturers are allowed to extrapolate energy use at 0 degrees from test results above and below zero. Except for Energy Star products, the information on the labels relies on manufacturers' test data.
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